Merchants on 74th Street in Jackson Heights say the city’s creation of a pedestrian plaza in September by their shops has hurt business and may force them to close.
The plaza, on 37th Road between 74th Street and Broadway, was drawn up by the city to create an area where pedestrians can relax.
But business owners said the plaza has given them headaches and their sales have dropped by as much as 60 percent.
“People try to find parking and they leave,” said Raj Bhalla, who owns two cell phone stores in the area and estimated 40 parking spaces were eliminated by the plaza. “They can’t do business with me because they can’t find parking.
“Traffic flow is dead,” he said. “It’s like a ghost town.”
Bhalla said the plaza forced him to cut a full-time employee’s hours down to part-time.
Tsering Phuntsok, who owns a newsstand, said his business also has dropped by about 60 percent.
Shauket Ali, owner of Kabob King, said the whole block is suffering.
“They blocked the street and 37th Road is the main hub of Jackson Heights,” Ali said.
The business owners said they met with City Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), who was a supporter of the pedestrian plaza. The councilman told them the plaza was in the third month of a six-month trial period and that he would reconsider his position after that, they said.
Dromm could not be reached for comment.
The business owners said they were not against a public plaza, but it would be ideal in another location.
“If they want to put a pedestrian plaza, why don’t they make it in a residential area, not in a commercial area?” asked Ali.
Shiv Dass, president of the Jackson Heights Merchant Association, said the business owners were never allowed to give their views on the plaza.
“They did not consult the merchants on this block,” he said. “Businesses are suffering. People have to pay rent. People have to pay employees.”
Dass said South Asian business owners helped the area prosper and the city is undermining their businesses with the plaza.
“We made this place a prime area, but now they’re trying to kill us,” he said. “The bottom line is they have to move this plaza. They tried the experiment. The experiment failed.”
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz at 718-260-4573 or at hkoplowitz
©2012 Community News Group
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